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Invisible Languages in the Nineteenth Century

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Edited By Anna Havinga and Nils Langer

The great linguistic diversity of spoken languages contrasts greatly with the much smaller number of languages used in written discourse. Many linguistic varieties – in particular, regional and minority languages – are not deemed suitable for writing because they do not possess the necessary lexical wealth or grammatical complexity. Such prejudices are commonplace amongst non-linguists and they have their origin in the sociolinguistic history of their speaker communities.
This book focuses on the nineteenth century as the time when language became an important part of the cultural identity of speakers, communities and nations. It comprises fourteen chapters on a variety of languages and countries and seeks to explore why and how certain linguistic varieties were excluded from written discourse – in other words, why they remain invisible to contemporary readers and modern historians. The case studies in this book illustrate the factors involved in the invisibilisation of languages in the nineteenth century; the metalinguistic debates about the suppression or promotion of regional, minority and non-standard languages; and the ways in which a careful study of informal writing can visibilise the linguistic diversity of spoken languages.

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Dialect in German Literature, 1760–1930 (Jochen A. Bär)

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Jochen A. Bär Dialect in German Literature, 1760–1930 abstract Dialects are linguistic varieties that are often used, and therefore visible, in German literature: not only before the emergence of the standard language in the middle of the seventeenth century, until which time it was normal to write in one’s own dialect, but also after the establishment of the common literary language. From the late eighteenth to the early twentieth century, however, dialect usage in prose or in drama is the exception and mostly has a comical function. Presenting a dialect-speaking fictional character means labelling him/her as unintelligent and belonging to the lower classes. On the other hand, dialect speakers were also shown as clever people opposing the authorities. This subversive function, too, demonstrates the prevailing norm: an educated person is normally expected to write in the common literary language. Introduction German literature is full of dialect. In the earlier history of the German lan- guage, before the development of what is usually called ‘High German’ (i.e. literary language or standard language), there was of course no other way than to use dialect as written language. Even without knowing the author of a medieval text, it is possible to tell its geographical origin almost exactly (at least within a radius of about 50 kilometres), just from the regional features used. Not every author wrote in his (mostly his, since female authors from these times are hardly known) own dialect, though. In the period of clas- sical ‘Mittelhochdeutsch’ (Middle High...

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